Sierra Club joins other groups in defending Longmont’s fracking ban and drilling regulations

By Lauren Swain
RMC Oil & Gas Campaign Communications Specialist

On Monday, March 11, in the Weld County District Court, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Environmental Law Clinic represented Sierra Club, Our Longmont, Earthworks, and Food and Water Watch in moving to defend Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing and related surface activities against a Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) lawsuit.  As of this writing, the case is in the process of being moved to Boulder County. You can follow the latest news on this and other oil and gas issues on our RMC Facebook Page.

According to Eric E. Huber, Senior Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, “This lawsuit could have a precedential effect throughout Colorado as other communities work to pass similar prohibitions on fracking and the disposal of its waste products within their boundaries.”
In November 2012, the people of Longmont voted by an overwhelming 60% to amend the City Charter “to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water.”  This historic ballot measure was spearheaded by the local group, Our Longmont.
“The extraction process of hydraulic fracturing has not been proven to be safe,” said Kaye Fissinger, managing member of Our Longmont.  “Further, the State of Colorado has created a situation where the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry has an inherent conflict of interest.  It cannot simultaneously foster the development of oil and gas and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”
“We are taking this action because we hope to affirm the rights of citizens and communities to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for themselves and future generations,” said Michael Harris, Director of the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law Environmental Law Clinic. He continued, “We are honored to represent Our Longmont, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club and Earthworks.”
“It is imperative that Colorado communities have the ability to protect their citizens from the many harmful impacts from oil and gas mining operations,” said Shane Davis, Longmont resident and Sierra Club Oil and Gas Team Information and Research Manager. “The industry has operated largely without meaningful and safe regulations and we must not let that happen any longer.”
Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said, “The citizens of Longmont took this action because they don’t trust state regulators to protect them. Rather than sue communities acting to protect their public health, industry and the state should be addressing legitimate community concerns by putting the public’s health before industry profits.”
On February 14, 2013 the Sierra Club and Earthworks also filed a motion to intervene in the State of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s lawsuit to invalidate a Longmont City Ordinance, passed by the city council in July 2012, that would protect residents from the pollution and associated health threats of oil and gas development.
The new rules immediately came under legal attack by the State of Colorado calling into question the City’s authority to protect its own citizens from the adverse effects of oil and gas development.
“We believe this is the first time a State has initiated a lawsuit against a local government regarding oil and gas regulation,” said Eric Huber, “If Longmont wants to prevent certain dirty and dangerous practices from energy companies from happening, then that should be their right.”

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